"He utilizes all of his pitches," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's got a lot of confidence in himself to make pitches. He can get guys out, and when he falls behind, he doesn't panic. He can use his cutter, he used his changeup today against some of these lefties, which we've been working on in the bullpen. He always has the curveball. He's got a real feel for that. He's a pitcher in every essence of the word, and that bodes well for every time he goes out there that he can make pitches and pitch to a game plan."
McHugh retired the first six batters he faced, and he didn't give up a run until Adrian Beltre scored on a fielder's choice off the bat of Delino DeShields in the sixth. With a rested bullpen and having thrown 85 pitches in his first start, the Astros didn't want to push him, especially because he had some skin tenderness in his middle finger.
"My fastball command was kind of a little touch-and-go early," McHugh said. "But to be able to get back in counts was big, especially when the guys in their lineup like Beltre, Prince [Fielder], some guys who can do some damage when they get a count in their favor. It was important to work back and kind of battle."
The first two batters reached against McHugh in the third, but Elvis Andrus, who led off with a single, was thrown out trying to steal before Rougned Odor doubled. McHugh stranded a pair of runners in the fourth inning.
"Control and damage is big," Hinch said. "When he got into a couple of jams, he pitched his way out of them, and I think that's key for a pitcher. When you have traffic on the base, it's easy to have the game speed up. It doesn't for Collin. Watching him ... his heartbeat gets less and less as the innings get more volatile is a good sign."
McHugh said he had a "baby blister" on his finger, but he's not worried about it affecting his next start. It's the same finger for which he went on the disabled list last July with a fingernail avulsion, which means the fingernail detached somewhat from the finger.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.